Friday, November 29, 2013


I can appreciate the term, "lucky duck." Over and over again. Still great enjoyment flying the falcon and sort of hunting ducks, but mostly marveling in these flights and camaraderie with the dogs, here in the Bitterroot neighborhood. Hope you had a great day as well!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Our National Bird Holiday

We are thankful for our Teaching Team birds this holiday, plus the dogs, cats, pigeons, quail and mice that all inhabit the place. Have a dandy Thursday with family and friends, and yes, we are having a turkey for dinner, but not one of these.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Steel Gyr

Metals Class 2

Last night's program was at the University for "Montana Wildlife" class with Joel Berger, 6 until 8 pm and chatting up a storm. A big PowerPoint plus Pygmy-owl, Aplomado Falcon and Barred Owl joining us in the lecture hall. Students - you will be tested on the John and Frank Craighead legacy, be forewarned. Today, a brand new PowerPoint at Big Sky High School. Topic? Welding!  It was the Metals 2 (or Metals II) class and instructor Scot Traeder and his students with their metal sculptures here. He asked if I could bring some of mine and could just fit in a few of the small, earlier pieces in the Subaru, standing here on either side, the Barn Owl and Peregrine and young artistes creations in between. A huge portion of the program was on my mentor, Bill Ohrmann, who graciously taught me everything I know, starting in 2004. Man, fun to present a whole new program, and remember: safety first. Always wear your welding mask with that wire-feed, plasma cutter, and torch going.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

That Rooster Fight

This is the photo that will be in Pheasants Forever: rooster fight in the back yard!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

PF Article:

Like a missile from the sky, down plummets the falcon in a vertical dive from hundreds of feet above; the quarry selected is one of a dozen pheasants flushed from the field ahead. Closing in with the final impact and an audible whack, feathers are flying.  Putting on the brakes with a seemingly impossible upturn swoop, she then lands on the rooster, delivers the deadly bite to the neck and it’s over. The Peregrine settles down to pluck as I close in to retrieve my trained bird and our dinner for the evening.
            This would be an ideal pheasant hunt, the kind you dream of and rewind in your head. More often than not though, the game absolutely will not fly when it sees that falcon shape above, and after close flushing, a tail chase ensues with the falcon binding to the pheasant and going for a ride. Diabolically, the intended victim usually runs for cover and simply swipes the falcon off it’s back; the reward is just a foot-full of feathers.
            No shotguns for this type of hunting. It’s the privilege of watching a raptor do what they do best, and it seems a glimpse into the 4000-year history of falconry - hunting wild game with trained birds of prey. The bond between bird and handler may rival any relationship possible, as the raptor is released to hunt and expected to perform.
Lightweight radio telemetry transmitters attached to the bird help the falconer find a raptor that has strayed, or killed game in thick cattails or brush. But they may lend a false sense of security with lots of hazards out there, including power lines, rival raptors, and pheasants that put up a nasty fight. This Peregrine has been particularly spooked after an altercation years ago, and often she will just watch a big rooster sail away without a second thought.
            Maybe sport isn’t the correct term for falconry, as it is more like an all-consuming lifestyle with a rather small following, and rightly so. Never a sure thing and quite often coming home with an empty game bag, pheasant hunting with a falcon can be quite the spectator sport, and we are just along for the ride.

Pheasants Forever Story

In April, I got some great shots of rooster Ring-necked Pheasants fighting in the yard, and the next thing I knew, the editor of Pheasants Forever Magazine was emailing for some high-res copies. I mentioned to Mark Herwig that I had some different kind of pheasant photos, ones with a Peregrine on top. So wrote a little article and an edited version showed up in their winter issue, out this week. The Sibley Story:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bonner Lumberjacks!

Today we had an assembly in Bonner, and actually the first school we ever set foot in armed with birds, back in 1988! We try to make it every two years. Go Lumberjacks and principal Ashley Parks here in front of her kids. Featured in the gymnasium on the left is their mascot, a big carved wooden woodsman, complete with a crosscut saw. Mr. Lumberjack was my perfect prop in describing how the Saw-whet Owl, with Owen on hand, was named in the 1800's. One of their calls has been likened to the sound of sharpening (whetting) a crosscut saw. Sibley is on the table to the right, and we arranged a field trip with the 5th graders for the last week of school next June to check out the Peregrine Falcons nesting on a cliff less than a mile away. Perfect.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Right On, Brother"

"Power to the people! I mean kestrels!" I have been working on the new book today and found this photo deep in a Lightroom file from July entitled AMKE MPG 2013. That translates to American Kestrels from a nest at the MPG Ranch across the river. This is a shouting newly-fledged female, with fist clenched in defiance. Okay, her foot is in a stretch, and her brother eats a grasshopper just delivered by a parent. This attempt at humor would be lost on anyone under the age of 50 or so.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


My brother Jonathan's son Zach was so happy to find this t-shirt of a favorite book at Rockin' Rudy's this summer during a visit, and a favorite bird Sonora the Aplomado Falcon on hand. This was the original cover artwork of the Anthony Burgess novel from 1962, and truly amazing film by Stanley Kubrick in 1971. Don't know about you, but I am a huge film buff, so re-visit those favorite movies as it's dark out by dinner time. And check out the birds during the day!

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Duck Day

We are so fortunate to have neighbors around that allow Jay and me to hunt with the Peregrines, and today, a mallard drake was part of the scheme. I retrieved falcon and duck from a slough here in the Bitterroot and a feast for all.

And 9 a.m. Today

Saturday, November 16, 2013

This Morning's Blizzard

I just opened the window by my desk to get this photo. SNOW! Bust out the skis friends. It will be great season and can hardly wait. See you at The Bowl.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Flying Falcon

I have been posting these Blogs for years at the suggestion of Webmaster Steve Palmer, and never know how they will go over with the followers of Raptors of the Rockies. Some days we will find 20 views in the "Stats" and one like last night, over 300. I would like to know what motivates people to check in - photos? stories? Beats me. Sonora the Aplomado has been very popular, and her exploits are noteworthy. Let me know why you visit, and thanks for the feedback. We'll keep 'em coming!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sonora Nov.13th

Photo just before our Aplomado Falcon took another road trip.
Back safe and sound and home today at noon. Whew, just as I mailing out 200 RRU Newsletters with her on the cover. Another lucky day. You are grounded Sonora, sorry girl.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New One On Line

Thanks, Steve! Check it out, in living color: 
In This Issue: Sonora, the Aplomado Falcon, a new book in the works, a trip to Boise and the Peregrine Fund, and update on the Montana Peregrine Institute, the Lolo Complex Fire, and much, much more...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

November 9th

Sibley and Chesty flying today. Plus Sonora to start things off, and what good girls. We're proofreading the new Raptor Round-Up newsletter which will be in the mail this week, and more photos than ever before, I think.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Archives Hooters

Today we have a program for the Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Missoula. We top off natural resources day, and a photo from 2009 and our 1200th program. Held at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the sponsors provided refreshments served by the gals from Hooters. A few Leadership folks timidly admitted that they didn't get the irony here, and I wrote in the newsletter, "Leave it to the Chamber to keep abreast with Missoula businesses and organizations."

Monday, November 4, 2013

First Snow

Sonora the Aplomado Falcon checks out our first snowfall in the valley, last night and mostly melted already. We'll see about flying this desert bird in the cold weather, but Chesty loves the snow. Harris's Hawks are also semiarid inhabitants but seem to do just fine unless it's way below zero, which is a temperature we haven't experienced in several years. But when it's that cold some spoiled rotten birds come in the house for a while.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Max on the Mend

Our longest resident Teaching Team raptor, Max the Golden Eagle hadn't been feeling well lately with some digestive troubles, and now back on track. I called Lisa Rhodin at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Montana: Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Helena and described the symptoms. She immediately thought of a common, but sometimes deadly ailment called clostridium, picked up from the diet and environment but treatable. Then our other veterinarian friends Dr.'s Dave Bostick and Pam Broussard in Missoula analyzed a fecal sample and voila! That was it. And even better, our pal Dr. Lynn Robin here at the Florence Veterinary Clinic supplied the medication. Max is 24 years old now, nervous damage, and retrieved from the Bob Marshall Wilderness as a fledgling, packed out on horseback for three days in 1989. Thank goodness and another group effort by all that love Max as much as we do (and the kids at all those assemblies over the years!)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Duck Hunting Today

Five lucky ducks but great flying with Jay and his bird Ella and here, Sib. Frozen ponds, sloughs and everything- it's winter up the Blackfoot Valley.